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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Lower Churchill Project, Expressions of Interest

In January of this year the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador issued a call for expressions of interest in the development of the Lower Churchill hydro electric project.

I would like to take a moment to "offer a bouquet" to the Premier for taking this action. It is only through the opening of the door to all interested parties that a truly beneficial option may be found.

Having said that, there is one fact that we cannot get away from when it comes to moving power out of Labrador. We must cross Quebec.

Crossing Quebec, as we all know, is a major stumbling block and always has been. It would be a wonderful thing if we could get full benefit for the sale of the power from this project, but with the province of Quebec forever standing between us and the rest of Canada and the U.S. it will not be easy.

During the early days of our partnership with Canada, the development of the Upper Churchill was a defining moment. As the newest member of the Canadian family we were asked to make a sacrifice for the good of our nation. Quebec was on the brink of leaving the Dominion and we were asked to take one for the team. We did. We have suffered for it ever since, so I don't believe any government in the province today would be fool hardy enough to repeat the deals of the past. Never the less, it won't be easy to get a fair deal due to our geographical location.

Let me put forward an idea that might help ensure a true and ongoing benefit to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Perhaps we shouldn't sell the power from the Lower Churchill outside the province at all, (unless we have some excess).

There are aluminum manufacturers who have already looked at moving into Labrador if the power were available, unbelievably it is not! The province is currently generating power for our own use from the burning of fossil fuel and companies like Abitibi are struggling with the high cost of power. Recently Abitibi even considered burning used tires as a means to generate power. This while Kyoto is on everyone's mind and while we have one existing mega generation project that we cannot make use of, and another that we have not developed.

One idea might be to develop the project (perhaps in conjunction with key industry players) and pump the power throughout Labrador and into the Island of Newfoundland. This would provide abundent power to both parts of the province. Far fetched, why?

It can be done. The island of Hong Kong is fed power through underwater lines so the idea of feeding the island is not far fetched, rather it is a proven one.

Can you imagine if Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro could supply generous amounts of power to the province at a modest profit? This would ensure the corporation's (Hydro) future, while also allowing us to have what could perhaps be some of the lowest cost power in North America? I wonder how many industries would be clamoring to set up shop here? Factories, smelters, mills, manufacturing, and the list goes on.

It could prove to be a boon to our economic growth and this type of development would not disappear over time, like the oil projects eventually will.

Can you imagine factories moving in due to all the cheap power? Perhaps we could even, as a next step, begin the development of processing and distribution systems for out offshore natural gas. It might be an industrial dream for business from around the world.

Just a pipe dream? I hope not. I also hope that this type of approach is one that makes its way through the proposal process that is due to close this month. We need to remember that we don't necessarily need to sell our resources to get the best benefit from them. Perhaps the new approach of using them ourselves should be investigated.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. With the cost of power pushing some industries to cut back and look at alternate means of accessing electricity, I can't we have not done something about this already. Just think what it would also mean for homeowners who can barely afford to heat their homes during the winter. Thanks for the insightful posting.

Mike said...

I agree, we need to do something and soon.

I don't know the logistics behind your idea, but it sounds like something that the govnerment should be looking into. We are too rich to be this poor!!!

Jerry said...

True, True, True!!! Come on Danny, lets get this done.

Andy W. said...

Good points.

I hope with the planning for the East/West power grid and the Kyoto protocol we might get some movement on the Lower Churchill (for our own use). I understand that some of the power in this province comes from a plant (not sure where) that is powered by Bunker Sea oil. I've also heard that it is one of the biggest pollution problems in the country.

Kyoto may call for shutting this down and help replace the power by getting the Lower Churchill up and running. Cross your fingers.